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  Sports   Football  31 Dec 2016  Triumphs of the underdogs lit 2016

Triumphs of the underdogs lit 2016

Published : Dec 31, 2016, 12:45 am IST
Updated : Dec 31, 2016, 2:36 am IST

Neymar saddled with the burden of defeat in the 2012 Olympics and absence through injury in 2014.

Portugal lifted their maiden Euro trophy this year.
 Portugal lifted their maiden Euro trophy this year.

International football in 2016 was welcome news for the romantics in sport. The triumph of the underdog, very rarely happens in life, so when it does occur in sports there is a general feel-good factor. The average football fan in England was happy at Leicester City’s success in the English Premier League. It enabled them to cock a snook at the tycoons who have taken over several famous clubs. Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi group transformed Manchester City as did Russian businessman Roman Abhramovic with Chelsea. They massively increased player’s salaries, which led to a rise in ticket prices. Consequently the working and middle class fans were slowly priced out of stadiums of Premiership clubs.

Leicester City showed that to win the Premier League it is not necessary to have a cash rich squad. Their success in the 2015-16 EPL was achieved on a shoe-string budget of £52.8 million. The budget of second placed Arsenal was £223.8 million, third placed Spurs was £169.5 million and big money spenders Manchester City £411 million. Manchester City, whose signings included Raheem Sterling, Nicolás Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne, were the biggest net spenders. In fact Manchester City’s expenditure on these three big transfers was over £54 million, which was the same as Leicester’s total budget.

Similarly Portugal’s win in Euro 2016 was also like a fairy tale. After they came through the group stage without a win, even their diehard fans did not visualize them being on the winner’s podium in Paris on July 10.

Portugal upset hosts France in the final, with an extra time goal by an out of favour striker Eder, who could not get off Swansea City’s bench for most of the 2015-16 season. Portugal were not the best team in the tournament but the hardest team to beat. This team did not have the talent of the golden generation of Luis Figo and Rui Costa but they won an international tournament for the first time. This Portugal team did not play beautiful attacking football with skilful wingers as they did in Euro 1996, 2000 and 2004. Yet, they were successful, even without their talismanic captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who was substituted after 25 minutes following a hefty tackle form French midfielder Dmitri Payet.

For Brazil, it was redemption time in the 2016 Olympics. They won the gold medal in Olympic football for the first time. Thrice in the past they had stumbled in the final, losing 0-2 to France in 1984, 1-2 to the erstwhile USRR in 1988 and again 1-2 to Mexico in 2012.

At the historic Maracana stadium, Brazil’s football dream came true. The national team reviled and derided after the 1-7 humiliation by Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-final, claimed a redemptive triumph. They beat nemesis Germany 5-4 on penalties in the final after the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Neymar saddled with the burden of defeat in the 2012 Olympics and absence through injury in 2014, scored the winning penalty kick (the most nervous moment in his life).

So the 2016 Rio Olympics ended in exuberant joy and relief for Brazilian fans as their team won by playing attacking football, a delight to behold.

Tags: manchester city, leicester city, cristiano ronaldo, english premier leagu